The past six months have been difficult for our extended family, as many loved ones have died. Most recently my cousin Michael. My heart is saddened at yet another loss and I know that his family is grieving as he was loved by his wife, daughters, sisters and all of us. This season of loss in our family inspired me to think about how often we faithfully share words of condolences and praise after a loved one has passed. While the sentiment may be cliche, I think it is true that we should be more intentional about telling others how we feel about them while we have the opportunity to do so.
My brother Ron was the first to notify me that Michael had died. Ronald and Michael were closer in age to one another and had grown up together, and so I’m sure that Ron felt the loss much deeper than me, but I appreciate him always keeping me in the loop about such things.
My closest sibling in age is my sister, we are separated by a decade, with both my brothers practically old enough to be my father. Ron reminds me in some ways of my Dad who passed last year, as he certainly has my Dad’s work ethic. I mentioned in my Dad’s eulogy that Ron was the hardest working man that I know, second only to my Dad. Ron’s work ethic is illustrated by his commitment to serve his family by always doing what is necessary and what is often difficult. People who are willing to make difficult choices and stay with something regardless of the circumstances are increasingly rare these days. My big brother Ronald is one of those rare individuals who actually physically works for a living and works hard. Ron takes pride in his work and in the life it has given him. I’m sure like all of us, he may look back from time to time and think about how things may have been different, but Ron always takes life as it comes and remains optimistic through the ups and downs that it brings.
I actually have some vague early memories of my brother living with us at home, when all of us were much younger. The pictures that come to my mind are of his propensity for play, as he would roll around with me on the floor coming up with imaginative ways to tickle me. Ronald was always ready to joke, play, or indulge in mischief, a trait that remains with him to this day. He demonstrates daily devotion to his wife, children and grandchildren in tangible ways and isn’t afraid to say the words “I love you” as I overhear him saying this often and sincerely.
For thirty-two years, every morning and evening during the school year, Ron can be found dutifully driving his school bus for the Gosnell School District. This is an accomplishment that may never be matched after his tenure. I am amazed when I imagine all of the lives that have been made better because Ron was willing to do the same thing over and over again for so long a time. Countless children have been given the opportunity to learn because my big brother was there to give them a ride. In this way, a school bus driver is so much more than just a school bus driver, Ron is a facilitator guiding others to a better future. Children, especially students, often lack the capacity or experience to adequately show gratitude, so on behalf of all those generations, Ron you are appreciated.
Ron has always been there for me personally. He has gone out of his way on many occasions to extend love and care for me, most especially in the moments when I didn’t deserve it. He often had a front row seat to my foolishness and pride, but never did he use it as a means to beat me up over it or hold a grudge. This means a lot to me, especially considering I literally almost burned his house to the ground on one occasion.
In the past few years, I have noticed that Ron’s heart has significantly grown in its capacity to love as he has cared for my parents, exclusively my mother now. He lives right beside my mom and has assumed the role of proprietor of the few acres of land we all lovingly refer to as “Loydsville.” Ron, along with my sister Kim, see to it that my mother’s needs are met and that she is well cared for during her season of dotage. I know that mom is very appreciative of both of them, and my oldest brother Jimmy and I will always be grateful for their service as time and circumstances have both moved us away from the homestead.
But Ronald’s heart has grown in other ways as well. Most significantly, I think, by adopting his grandson Kason. If you follow Ronald on Facebook, you are well acquainted with the fact that he and Kason are inseparable. There is a joy that is communicated in Ron’s words and actions anytime Kason is involved.
This is a gift, as not everyone is privileged to be trusted with the stewardship of children at such an advanced season of life. Ron still possesses that capacity to play as many of his posts feature him and Kason doing exactly that, with their beloved Basset hound “Buck” not too far behind in many of the pictures. Kason can be seen frolicking up and down the levee that borders Loydsville or traipsing through the tall cotton and flat lands of the Delta. Much like Ron and I did as we were children.
There is a beautiful continuity of time in these images that reads like poetry. Ron has a relationship to the land that he lives on, much like my Dad before him, and my Grandmother before them both, it is hard for me to imagine my brother anywhere else in the world than right there. Ron is a fixture, a landmark, a touchstone linking the past, present, and future together. Ron is at his best what all of us should aspire to be, and in his weaker moments he is what all of us are -humans trying to do our best in an uncooperative world.
So many call him Ron, others call him Rondald. A few call him “Pappy” fewer still call him “Dad.” Generations have called him “Mr. Loyd” as they climb on and off his bus. I’m proud to call him my big brother and I love him very much.